The Strength in Weakness

Acknowledging weakness is the toughestButThat's when God is the strongest.

Often, as a control freak, we do a great job of highlighting our strengths. There are some things we do very well and we feel great about that. We can discuss our strengths in detail, we know just how to place ourselves in position to maximize our gifts and talents and we feel best when we are working in capacities that best align with our skill sets. Something we often shy away from addressing, is our weakness. Even in job interviews we have learned and mastered the answer to the question “what are some of your strengths and weaknesses?” turning both into answers highlighting things we do well. That’s all good. There’s nothing wrong with finding comfort in your gifts and talents. When you do something well and you know you do it well, there’s no question you should be using those to to your advantage and to the advantage of those around you.

But what happens when we get a little too high and mighty? As much as we like to avoid the conversation, there isn’t a person living who doesn’t have a weakness. There is no person living who is the best at everything and that’s exactly how God intended for us to be. We should all be living and serving in complimentary fashion alongside others, using our strengths were someone else may have a weakness and vice a versa.

Too many times we are taught that being a Christian is to strive for perfection. That is not the case at all. We are to strive to love God and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. We are incapable of perfection. God knows that and has extended us grace in the areas where we are lacking.

There is a place in the bible where Paul is speaking and he’s telling of a wonder vision God gave him. He says that the vision was so clear and he was so sure that it was from God, if he bragged about it, it would be warranted because it would be truth. However, he says that even having been exposed to such greatness, he was given what he calls a thorn. He had a supposed ailment that kept him humble. Whenever he started to feel himself, he was reminded that he’s not perfect, he has a weakness. The best part about his realization that his weakness would keep him from thinking of himself more highly than he should is what he said about how God regarded his weakness each time he asked God to take it away.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12: 8-9

Paul had a weakness that he felt like was hindering him so he asked God to take it away. Instead, God told him grace was all he needed. God basically said to him, I see your weakness and I haven’t counted you out. You’re still valuable to me, I see you trying so wherever you fall short, I will stand in that gap and be sure that the vision I gave you is still fulfilled. Here’s the best part, “My power works best in weakness.” God is able to get really creative when there’s literally nothing else in our own physical power left for us to do. That’s so amazing! So Paul encourages us not to be ashamed of our weaknesses. He even says to take pleasure in them. Because as soon as we recognize we are incapable of doing anymore than we have tried, we can show God we trust God to do the rest and God will also take pleasure in that and leave you and everyone around you wondering how you could have possibly pulled that off. And that’s where you tell them, it wasn’t me, that was all God.

Challenge:

Here’s something I started doing about 4 years ago. I would have ideas or goals that I knew for sure God was inspiring me toward but I kept running into roadblocks. There were skills, resources, connections etc that I just didn’t have. I would get so frustrated feeling so powerless to certain situations. But I’d say this prayer, “God, I know you see me trying and I just don’t think there’s anything else I can do. If I’m missing something, please reveal it to me. If not, please work this out in a way that I won’t possibly be able to take credit for. So when people ask me how I did it, I’ll remember to tell them it was you. In Jesus’ name, amen.” At a time when I had no idea how I was going to pay for graduate school, I applied to school and then prayed that prayer every night. A month before school was supposed to begin, I was offered a job AND a scholarship, neither of which I had applied for. I have no doubt in my mind it was that desperate prayer and my willingness to acknowledge my weakness and have faith that God would work things out that excited God to stand somewhere I had never been on my behalf. If you’re reading this and you feel powerless to any situation at all, I challenge you to pray that prayer or your own prayer with that same sentiment and watch what God can and will do!

Advertisements

Your Authority. Your Joy.

Joy

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that it’s target audience is those of us who have a little trouble relinquishing control to God as we’ve decided to accept Christ into our lives. But in the opening manifesto on the first page of this blog it also says “This is a safe place to affirm your right to a certain level of control while emphasizing a responsibility to operate in prayerful obedience.” It is important that, as we remind ourselves we simply can’t control every single aspect of our lives, we also remind ourselves which things we actually can control.

There is often this misconception that after one yields personal power to God everything in their life should just begin to get more and more perfect as time progresses. That’s wildly false. One might even say that once you start to live your life with God at the forefront, life seems to make it a little bit harder to believe you’ve done the right thing. Just like anyone else, we’re all faced with daily challenges that can really make it difficult to enjoy life sometimes.

This is the day that the LORD has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalms 118:24

Today’s devotional is just a simple reminder that, while we can’t always controls what enters our daily lives and how it challenges us, we do have a responsibility not to forget who we are and who each day belongs to. The above verse is a reminder that each day that we are living belongs to God. No matter how it starts or finishes, God has the power and authority to orchestrate how today’s happenings can turn out for our good. In that we can rejoice, or have joy. We are allowed to and responsible for remembering that and if we can’t find any joy in anything else all day, we can be glad that the day doesn’t belong to whatever it is we are currently facing. This day, yesterday, tomorrow and beyond were given to us by God and belong to God.

Well why should we find joy in that when everything is falling apart? The answer is simply because of who we know God to be. God has told us many times in the bible that we are loved, that God is always with us, that God is constantly working with our best interest at heart, and so many other promises that indicate any day that we are given is a day we can look for God’s love. Any day that belongs to God is a day in which God can be found.

Even if today looks like it’s the worst day you’ve had, even if you’ve had a series of days that seem to suck the joy from your spirit, our joy is ours to control. The scripture doesn’t say for us to find something to make us joyful it just says that we will rejoice, meaning our circumstances are not in charge of our joy. We have authority over our joy and can rejoice whenever we want to. We don’t find joy, we find reasons to create it! So, let’s desire to take joy in today simply because we can!

Task:

Each time you are faced with a negative thought or situation, try to counter that with noting one thing that you can be happy about. It may be as simply as, my work day ends at 4pm and I can finally get some rest but find different ways to inspire joy in your attitude today. Don’t let your surroundings have control of your attitude. That is your authority.

10 to the End Day 10: CELEBRATE!

Celebrate (1)

It’s January 1 and you’ve made it to a New Year! We’ve spent time reflecting on what was and planning for what will be. Now, in this moment, whatever moment you have while reading this, take a moment to celebrate. No, we’re not simply celebrating what God did for us in 2017. We’re not just celebrating the fact that we’ve made it to a new year. We’re celebrating everything that God has for us in the coming year. Things we can’t even see yet, we’re celebrating them because we trust that God will bring them to pass.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

I don’t know how 2017 treated you but my prayer is that you’ve released that from your mind, body and soul so that you can fully embrace what’s to come.In 2018 let’s keep the above verse from Jeremiah as a reminder that no matter what happens in the coming year, regardless of how tough things could get, no matter how many unexpected things could possibly come our way, the goal is not for God to harm us but for God to use every single thing in our lives to give us hope and a prosperous future. We are celebrating God’s love for us that goes ahead of us in every situation to make sure that we are able to find some way for everything that comes our way to benefit us.

We have released what has passed.

We are living in and making the best of what is present.

We are celebrating everything that is to come.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

10 to the End Day 9: Call it What it Will Be

success (1)

In our battle with relinquishing control to God, there is good news for us! Although we have chosen to give God the ultimate power over our lives, God has chosen to give us access to the same power God has, simply because we have committed to a life of faith.As you’re preparing your plans for 2018 don’t forget the power you have that is given to us by God to manifest the vision we’ve been given in our lives, by the faith we have already claimed to have in God.

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak…

2 Corinthians 4:12-13

In the bible, from the creation story, to the story of Jesus calming the storm, we are shown God’s ability to create, bring forth life, command an outcome by speaking. And because we believe, we must also recognize our access to the power to do the same. With this in mind, in the new year, we have to make it a habit to speak to ourselves and to our plans in a way that affirms this power. Whatever your plans are, as you are confident you have God’s blessing to pursue them, make sure that your speech, your prayers over them are positive affirmations. No more, “I hope,” “I wish,” “ifs,” and “I want.” Modify those to definitive statements based in your confidence in God and the power you have as a result of that.

Don’t speak things as though you hope for them to become, speak to your plans, your attitudes, your intentions, your daily struggles with the authority to call them what they will be, before you’ve ever seen any evidence of change.

Task:

  1. Write down the things you would like to accomplish in the most important areas of your life i.e. your professional life, your family life, your faith, your social life etc.
  2. look at what you’ve written down. Are there words of uncertainty? Have you included “I hope” “I wish”?
  3. Make each accomplishment into a powerful affirmation. (ex: Instead of “I hope to improve my financial stability,” say, “I will improve my financial stability.”)
  4. Post your affirmations in a place that you will have to see them each day. Read them aloud and believe them as you work toward the steps to bring them to fruition.

 

 

 

 

10 to the End Day 8: Redefining Success

success

One of the biggest things I’ve struggled with as a type A personality who is also trying to yield my obsession with control to God, is my idea of success. I’ve been given a vision or an idea and I’ll begin planning it, then I’ll get completely stuck when it’s time to put the plan into action because I’m too busy trying to visualize it all the way to the end and I can’t quite see what kind of success it will have. The idea of one of my ventures not being successful can sometimes cripple my entire progress toward its completion. Many of us even work in career fields that encourage this and we let it bleed over into our personal lives as well.

After evaluating my year, I got really frustrated with this. I began beating myself up a bit for being too afraid to move on things I’ve had on my heart for literal years, simply because I was afraid of the outcome not being successful. Then, I paused and asked myself, well what exactly do I consider successful or unsuccessful? Then I answered myself and it all had to do with how other people may perceive my vision. I was so worried that people might not like it, or it might not be as impactful as something similar I had seen, or it wouldn’t get as much attention as I thought was acceptable. All things that you can’t always plan for. As a PR and Marketing professional, it’s very normal for me to think a project all the way through to its impact. But it’s also common for people in my profession to over AND underestimate the impact or reach of a project, leaving you surprised by its success or unsuccessfulness. That was still scary to me so I began thinking more about my idea of success and wanting to revamp this entire idea going into 2018.

There’s a place in the bible where Jesus is speaking to a crowd and woman basically says that Mary’s womb is blessed for having him and Jesus says

“Blessed, rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

Luke 11:28

Now, though this was in response to a specific statement by a woman in a crowd, it still spoke to me in my dilemma with successfulness. Mary obviously is a blessed woman for her role in bringing us Jesus but Jesus was basically saying, she’s not simply blessed because of what she was able to produce, she’s blessed because when God told her what she was about to do, she was obedient to the instructions. Her obedience alone is her success. That realization has changed my entire outlook on my own success. Though I do want to make sure that the vision God gave me is carried out in a way that has a positive impact on others, my entire success is in my ability to carry out the vision God gave me at all.

In all of my plans for this coming year, my goal is simply to start and finish with the simple purpose of being obedient to God. In that, I truly believe God has full control of the outcome. Whether its impact is “large” or “small” by people’s definition is less important than whether or not I have done what God asked me to do. Last year, I can honestly say I was not obedient to God in all that was placed on my heart and it was simply because I was afraid of failing in people’s eyes. Now, I know, my obedience is my greatest success and it’s far more important for me to be successful in God’s eyes than in anyone else’s. I’m sure, that as a type A person, I will continuously have to struggle with this idea, but my prayer for myself and for everyone else like me, is that we can take more pride in being obedient than being “successful.”

10 to the End Day 7: Let God Guide Your Plans.

Gratitude (3)

As a type A personality, you may have already planned past this step. You may have already written your plans for the coming year and set them into motion. However, one thing we should never lose sight of, is our purpose. It’s easy to make plans simply because they seem to make sense to us. To move forward with a job, or a relationship, or any other personal venture may be the most logical thing to us to pursue. But as followers of Christ, whether new to or mature in the lifestyle, we should remind ourselves that our purpose should be something that is in line with being an example for others of God’s love.

The bible reminds us in Matthew why it’s important to remember our purpose in making our plans.

Seek first the kingdom of heaven and all these things will be added unto you.

Matthew 6:33

If our main focus is to live a life that pleases God, all the things that we need and desire will be added to our lives. Now, this doesn’t always mean that everything you’ve planned with work out. It often means that the closer we get to God, we realize that our plans are not necessarily the same plans that God has for us, so our wants and needs will shift the more we desire a life that is based on a relationship with God.

We all have an individual purpose here on Earth as well, and we may not have all realized what that is for ourselves just yet. That’s ok. We all discover our purpose in our own time. In the meantime, I believe our purpose is always to love one another in a way that shows people how God loves us. That looks differently for everyone, but always includes doing for others.

So ask yourself,

  1. Do any of your plans benefit someone else other than yourself? Are you being charitable, uplifting someone else, assisting someone else in a goal or dream? This one may be something small or it may be something you pray about and let God reveal to you. Either way, we should always be planning to be a blessing to someone else while we are planning our own progression.
  2. Which of your goals or plans helps you to become more educated in your faith?
  3. Which of your goals or plans helps you to strengthen your relationship with God?
  4. Have I prayed about any of my plans?
  5. Have I paused to actually listen to God or look for signs of what God is guiding me to do?
  6. Am I possibly avoiding something that I don’t want to do, but am feeling lead to do?

It is very easy to be excited about planning for our future. It’s very common to be a little nervous about planning for the future. Hopefully, answering these questions help encourage you to seek God in all your plans, and not to just make plans and include God as you go.

 

10 to the End Day 3: Proverbs and Priorities

Gratitude (2)

If there’s anything a Type A person is serious about, it’s our time. There never seems to be enough of it to accomplish all of our plans AND rest. There’s always a task that demands much of our time and attention and many of us struggle with balancing things of importance and prioritizing things that don’t bring us immediate results. So here’s a question, in 2017 what got the majority of your time and attention? Did you procrastinate? Did you neglect one area of your life to prioritize another? Was there anything you rushed toward in this last year that could have waited?

There is a proverb that says,

The plans of people who work hard succeed. You can be just as sure that those in a hurry will become poor.

Proverbs 21:5

There you have it, a scripture praising work ethic. But there is much more to explore here that can help us wrap up 2017 with honest evaluation. The scripture says those who work hard succeed, it doesn’t say that only people who work hard on things that are good will be successful. Some of us, myself included, worked very hard toward some things in this past year that did not end up serving us well. We spent much too much time working toward some activities, or relationships that were not in God’s plans for us simply because they seemed to make sense to us or because they were what we wanted. And that work was successful at something, but not at elevating us closer to our purpose in the body of Christ and in our relationship with God.

We must be careful next year where we spend our time and energy being mindful of the results it my yield us. Too much time at work will lead to success in your respective field but could also lead to unsuccessful personal relationships if you’re not careful. Spending big chunks of time with friends or a significant other may lead to success in those relationships but could you be neglecting time with family or on school or work? Spending too much time obsessing over something that is out of your control, or dedicating too much energy to negative feelings will make you successful at keeping yourself in a constant negative state of mind. And in all of these things, are we spending enough time growing our relationship with God?

Rushing toward the plans we’ve made for ourselves while overlooking the need to prioritize other areas of our lives, including our relationship with God can certainly leave us poor in the areas we neglect. So in the coming year, let’s make sure we are creating balance. Try setting alarms for prayer times, designating a day/time per week for strictly family activities (if your schedule allows such), using phone apps to make to do lists and hold yourself accountable to putting them in order of priority and holding yourself accountable to that. We are only one person so we sometimes can’t be perfect in our priorities, but recognizing that as a need, is important to being well-rounded and being focused on our calling.

Priorities Activity:

Write down the answers to these questions for consideration:

  1. How did you spend most of your time this year?
  2. What got most of your attention?
  3. What needs more of your attention?
  4. Where did you fit in relationship building time with God?
  5. What can you do to make better use of your time in the coming year?

If any of your interpersonal relationships suffered this past year as a result of time management, try asking the people in your life what they would like to see from you and reaching a compromise. This often lets people know they are important to you. 

 

10 to the End Day 6: Comfort & Assistance

Gratitude (2)

We’ve spent the last 5 devotionals reflecting on 2017 and bringing it to a close. As we continue on our 10 to the end posts, we transition into bringing forth what’s to come in the future.

We are just days away from walking into a new year. We get a brand new start, 365 days of a clean slate. By now, we should all have at least 1 plan for the next year. There is something we need to start, continue, or finish in the next year that is going to take some time and some careful consideration. We’re going into a new year with new things on our hearts and a determination to see them through. Some of us may have some plans that really don’t make any sense to us right now. Maybe God has given you a vision that you don’t currently have the resources to bring to fruition. Maybe God is sending you somewhere you’ve never been and you’re nervous about how you’ll be received. Maybe you’re trying something again that you’ve failed at in the past and you’re beginning to wonder if it’s even worth it anymore.

Today’s devotional is a simple reminder that, sprinkled throughout the bible, there are promises God made to us through those who wrote down their stories. God made us promises that have lasted thousands of years and if you believe God is honest, they are helpful when encouraging yourself as you walk into 2018.

My favorite Promise God made is found in Isaiah

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Isaiah 41:13

It seems so simple, but it really gives me a feeling of tenderness from God. Too often we are encouraged to think of God as high in the sky and eager to judge. This verse reminds me, that God is personal enough to hold my hand and to tell me not to be afraid because God is going to actually help me.

Whatever it is that God has placed on your heart for the coming year, even if you’re not quite sure yet what God is doing in your life in 2018, we can all rest assured that we won’t be forced to do it alone. The very same God who has power over everything, understands that what you’re tasked with in the coming year can be overwhelming and has already promised you comfort and assistance.

Bible Study Tools has complied a list of 50 of God’s promises found in the bible. Go through it and pick out the ones that resonate with you most going into 2018 and display them somewhere that will help encourage you in the coming year. Approach your 2018 plans with purpose, bravery, and peace knowing you’re not doing this alone.

 

 

10 to the End Day 5: Love Was the Motive

Gratitude (1)

On this day each year, we observe the coming of Christ as the ultimate display of God’s love for us. From the beginning of time, God knew we wouldn’t be able to fully achieve the relationship God desired with us. We are imperfect and incapable of being clean enough to stand in God’s presence. God knew that and could have just shrugged it off, after all, it’s our own fault. But instead, God loved us all, past, present, and future, and wanted to give us the opportunity to have a full live and whole relationship with God. So, he sent a piece of himself in the flesh to liberate us from all the things that could have kept us out of his presence and now we have the privilege to talk to God and spend time with God in full freedom.

As we prepare for the coming year, remember that our entire story as Christians begins with love; not condemnation, not judgement, not shame. It was God’s deepest desire to have us as close as possible in the now and the forever. Remember that when you make mistakes. Remember that when you’re overwhelmed and feel like you have no one to talk to. Remember that when you feel like you’ve failed God beyond repair. God already knew we’d feel this way and made provisions for us in the form of a baby that would eventually grow to be a living, breathing, and eventually a dying example of the lengths God would go to give us the best parts of him. Love was the motive the entire time.

God bless you all on this holiday. I pray that you are surrounded by love, peace and comfort. And if you are able to surround yourself with it, I pray that God is able to bring it forth from inside you.

Merry Christmas!

10 to the End Day 4: Who was God?

Gratitude

As we’re having our moments of introspection to close out our 2017, it’s important that as we’re looking at ourselves, we also look to God. We have all, at some point, asked God to be head of our lives but surrendering to God is not a 1 time activity. We need to challenge ourselves to continuously surrender our fear of not having control to God.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Revelation 3:20

We have already expressed we’d like a relationship with God and to know God is to know that you will never be totally left to your own devices. However, Christ does not force His way into our lives. God is always who God is, but we have still have to invite God to be who God is personally to us.

So, very simply, who has God been to you this year? Was God your go to consultant when you needed to make heavy decisions? or was God your back up plan when what you planned to do did not work? Did you trust God to be your provider this year? Or were you constantly stressing about how the things you need would materialize? Who were you to God? Were you a close friend or a distant relative?

Before we truly move forward into a new year with God being examples of Christ’s love, we have to be honest with ourselves and with God about where we are in our relationship with one another. Some of us may be able to celebrate immense growth in our spiritual lives, while others of us may notice the points in our lives where we used God instead of loved God. Some of us may be able to celebrate and challenge ourselves to do better at the same time.

Ultimately, as we move forward, it’s important we recognize who we are moving forward with.

Who is God activity:

  1. Make a list of who you allowed God to be for you this year? What areas of your life did you willingly invite God into?
  2. Next, make a list of who you needed God to be for you this year? Where didn’t you allow God to take full control that you need to reevaluate for the coming year?
  3. Look at both of these lists and take time to envision how you will merge the two in the coming year.